Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike

Amnesty International has issued a call for urgent action that asks individuals around the world to contact Israeli authorities concerning Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, two Palestinian men who are at immediate risk of death as they engage in the nonviolent action of a hunger strike. Both are being held without charge or trial by Israel.

Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons are staging a mass hunger strike to protest prison conditions and the practice of administrative detention. CNN reports:

As of May 6, Bilal Diab and Tha’er Halahla entered the 70th day of their strike. CNN uses the headline that that they are “nearing death” and states:

According to a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prison Service, Diab is being held at an Israeli hospital while Halahla is being cared for at prison medical facility.

Israel’s High Court of Justice denied the petition of Diab and Halahla for freedom from their months-long administrative detention. Haaretz writes:

Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Noam Sohlberg and Yoram Danzinger denied the petition. While “administrative detention causes unease in any judge, on occasion it is an absolute necessity,” they said in a statement.

They added, however, that the state should consider allowing a jurist with security clearance to study information on the inmates’ imprisonment.

Such a move “could bring the court’s proceedings closer to [preserving] the detainees’ rights without harming security,” they said.

Diab and Halahla are not alone in their nonviolent protest. ABC news notes that:

According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600 Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about 2,500 strikers are striking.

The mass strike began on April 17 – Palestinian Prisoner’s Day – as reported by the Jerusalem Post. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, observes that this effort:

was directly inspired by the recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures.

CBS reports that 10 hunger strikers have been hospitalized.

The hunger strike calls for an end to administrative detention. Additional demands are:

  1. An end to the policy of solitary confinement and isolation which has been used to deprive Palestinian prisoners of their rights for more than a decade.
  2. To allow the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit prisoners. This right has been denied to all families for more than 6 years.
  3. An improvement in the living conditions of prisoners and an end to the ‘Shalit’ law, which outlaws newspapers, learning materials and many TV channels.
  4. An end to the policies of humiliation which are suffered by prisoners and their families such as strip searches, nightly raids, and collective punishment.

By their refusal to eat, Diab, Halahla and the other prisoners offer their bodies and their lives in nonviolent resistance.

In 1988, the 200th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted the policy statement Christian Obedience in a Nuclear Age that stated:

Though the Reformed tradition has justified the resort to violence in response to particular forms of oppression, its emphasis on the reconciling vision of love presumes that the choice of nonviolence is more appropriate. Nonviolence is both a way of life and a tactical method. As a way of life, it seeks peacefully to affirm creation, to respect the value and dignity of all human beings, and to recognize the potential for human fulfillment in all of God’s people. As a tactical method, nonviolence asserts the value of peaceful methods of change, such as voting and peaceful assembly and petition for redress of grievances; and, when led to resistance, it attempts to use modes such as civil disobedience that are appropriate to the ends of a just peace. As a way of life, nonviolence requires a total commitment to nonviolent principles; as a tactical method, it advocates a selective employment of nonviolent, peacemaking strategies.

Jesus warned against violent responses to personal attacks and lived nonviolently in the midst of violence.

The 219th General Assembly (2010) affirmed “with greater urgency our historic Presbyterian stances with specific regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” including a call for:

the cessation of systematic violation of human rights by any party, specifically, practices of administrative detention, collective punishment, the torture of prisoners and suspects, home demolitions and evictions, and the deportation of dissidents;

That same assembly  reiterated a call for nonviolence as the way to pursue peace:

Urges the main Palestinian political parties (Fatah and Hamas) to set aside their differences, to pursue an ideology of nonviolence, to reconcile immediately, and to work for peace with each other and with their neighbor, Israel, for the sake of their people, and also calls on the U.S. government to offer support for such reconciliation.

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